We’ve all witnessed it. Some of us have even been guilty of it. Posting an image to social media of something we’re happy about or proud of or grateful for, and captioning it with “#blessed.”
Folks, it is high time we knock this shit off.
I get that when people say #blessed, it’s generally meant as an expression of gratitude. But the word “blessed” has its own meaning, rooted in religion. It implies something bigger than gratitude. Dictionary.com defines “blessed” as “divinely or supremely favored; fortunate.”
And … what’s wrong with that? Maybe you really do feel fortunate that your children are healthy, or that your vacations are lavish, or that you just got a giant promotion. Maybe you even believe God himself has blessed you with those things.
But, the problem is, plenty of other people who are just as hard-working or just as devoutly religious as you are don’t have those things. Plenty of people are scraping and clawing only to barely get by. They may pray fervently every day to be well enough to function just so they can work and keep their electricity from getting cut off. A vacation is not even remotely in the cards. So … are they not blessed? Are they not deserving? Does the universe not care about them?
The implication when you list your material possessions or flaunt your good health with #blessed is that others who don’t have those things must not be blessed. The implication is that you’ve been chosen to have fancy vacations while others go without. Even if you’re not a religious person — even if you’re not a believer at all — you’re still essentially saying the universe favors you. Either way, the implication is that you’re a favorite somehow.
Whenever I see new parents post an image of their newborn baby and caption it with #blessed, I cringe. Listen, I get it. Babies are a blessing in their way. But it’s the baby doing the blessing, not God or the universe. To claim #blessed about your healthy baby is a slap in the face to every mother who has miscarried or lost a child. It’s like saying she must have gone wrong somewhere with her love or her hope or her prayers. It’s like saying she wasn’t selected to be #blessed with a healthy, live baby.
I haven’t lost a child, but I lost my little step brother years ago in a four-wheeling accident. He was only 15, and I was just getting to know him. He should be alive today. If he had lived, would his continued existence be a blessing? And if so, how do we label his death? A curse? A punishment? For whom?
Do you see how gross this is? Losing Kyle was a freak accident that left a terrible hole in our family. It wasn’t determined by anything — not by God, not by the universe, and not by fate. And don’t @ me with your “everything happens for a reason” horse shit. My kid bro should still be alive. He should be an uncle to my kids. We all should have had a chance to get to know him better. He was such a cool, sweet kid.
So, if your knee-jerk reaction is to defend #blessed by saying “relax, it’s just an expression of gratitude,” please try to imagine you’ve lost a kid, and all the parents around you won’t shut up about how #blessed they are every time their kid achieves something. It’s just as easy to be proud of your kid as it is to label yourself as “blessed.”
#blessed isn’t only obnoxious because it implies divine favoritism. It also minimizes the struggles and hard work of the person who is apparently “blessed.” If you are finally able to buy your own home after years of squirreling away every spare dollar you possibly could so you would have enough for a down payment, you are not “blessed.” You are hardworking and tenacious. You busted your ass to get that house. YOU busted your ass. It’s okay to take the credit.
At the same time, there’s plenty of luck involved in many of the things that are labeled “blessings.” Good health? Sorry, but that’s not a blessing. It’s a fortunate combination of genetics and environment. There is no divine intervention bestowing good health on some and giving other people cancer. A friend of mine, one of the best humans I know, has been fighting brain cancer for a decade. He wasn’t cursed with a tumor any more than those of us who are cancer-free are #blessed. Biology is just really fucking messy sometimes, really fucking unfair.
Same for wealth. Wealth is not a blessing. For most, it’s a mix of hard work, opportunity, privilege, and luck. For those who are born into wealth, it is merely privilege and luck. Wealth is not ever a blessing. Wealthy people weren’t chosen by God to have more than everybody else. Yuck.
Using #blessed in religious terms might be the most offensive way of using it. If you’re religious and you believe in prosperity gospel, if you believe that as long as your faith is strong enough, health, wealth, and joy will be bestowed upon you, then what are you saying about those who go without? Logically, you’re saying everyone who doesn’t share your belief system is playing with fire. That anything they have that looks like a blessing is just a ticking bomb about to go off in their face because they don’t believe in the right god. And for those who do share your belief system but seem to endure tragedy after tragedy, well, they must simply not be praying hard enough.
Listen, for those who find comfort in religion, more power to you. Just please lay off with the #blessed nonsense. There are loads and loads of people who are just as grateful for their loved ones as you are, who work just as hard as you do, who try as hard as you do to maintain good health, who believe and pray as fervently as you do … but who cannot seem to get into that #blessed space.
So maybe quit rubbing what is essentially a mix of opportunity and luck in their faces, as if you have been literally chosen by God to live a richer life than they do.
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